J.M. Coetzee uses the third person omniscient point of view to tell the story of the unraveling of David Lurie's career and the proceeding time he spends with his daughter, Lucy, in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Through this point of view, Coetzee creates a voice that is distant: he evokes extreme emotion in the reader through the complexity of his characters while nevertheless remaining ostensibly veiled in an objective and unyielding tone of voice. It is through this narration that Coetzee discloses the emotional angst and uncertainty that plague both David and Lucy at different points throughout the novel. Coetzee offers a comparison of the varying degrees to which David and Lucy are disgraced and endure shame. While their emotions are precipitated by opposing forces and manifest themselves differently, thus revealing the contrast in their cognitive makeups, they both experience a disgrace that is analogous to the infamy of apartheid and undergo significant, yet muddled internal transformations that mirror the complexity of post apartheid South Africa.
[...] While subtle, Coetzee's words are exceedingly revealing: Lucy's attachment to life in the country is perhaps representative of a larger connection to both the physical and cultural realities of South Africa. While aware of the dangers surrounding her, Lucy remains steadfast in living the life she chooses. Originally moving to the Eastern Cape as a member of a commune of six women, Lucy devotes herself to peddling leather goods and sunbaked pottery (Coetzee, 60). After the commune disbands, Lucy stays and creates a business-like relationship with her neighbor, Petrus, a coloured man who helps with the physical labor involved in maintaining her farm. [...]
[...] In this way, Coetzee is speaking to the complexity of David Lurie: just like the good and the bad in the South Africa's history, David Lurie's growth cannot be measured in quantitative forms of good and evil. Despite David's lust for Desiree and his decision to pick up a prostitute, his attitude toward sex and women does change. He is inevitably changed by the lifestyle he creates living in the Eastern Cape. When he returns to the Eastern Cape in the end of the novel, he has a different attitude toward his relation with Lucy. [...]
[...] They deprived her of her sense of self-sufficiency, her individuality, and her belief in the strength of women. Thus, while David and Lucy both are disgraced, the source of this emotion comes from opposing sexual roles. Also, David's conquest was of a coloured girl while Lucy was raped by coloured men. In this way, both sexism and racism become significant thematic elements. One scholar writes, “Disgrace is, above all, a forceful portrayal of a disgraceful situation: the continued flourishing of racist and sexist attitudes in post-apartheid South Africa” (Attridge, 317). [...]
[...] Additionally, Sue Kossew writes, is Lucy's acknowledgement, too, of her having to share the land, to make compromises, that enables her to take tentative steps towards overcoming her disgrace and finding a way to live in a future South Africa that does not entail just guilt and punishment” (Kossew, 161). Equally telling is Lucy's decision to keep the child after she finds out that she is pregnant. Despite the dangers of living alone of the Eastern Cape as a young female and the challenges posed by raising an interracial child, Lucy's tenacity and her desire to create life out of despair perhaps signifies a glimpse of hope. [...]
[...] In this way, he is overcome by the power of compassion and recognizes the concept of a soul that just may be present in him, as well as the dogs he euthanizes. Coetzee writes, has he taken on this job? [ ] For the sake of the dogs? But the dogs are dead; and what do dogs know of honor and dishonor anyway? For himself, then. For his idea of the world A dog-man, Petrus once called himself. Well, now he has become a dog-man, a dog undertaker (Coetzee, 146). [...]
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